By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The MP who is the face of northern Oshawa and the eastern stretches of Durham Region on Parliament Hill is now looking to make himself the face of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Launched from a park in his hometown of Bowmanville, Erin O’Toole, the former veterans affairs minister and current MP for Durham, announced that he will be running for the leadership of the Conservatives, joining a race already filled with MPs past and present.
O’Toole says that he decided to run for the helm of the party currently sitting in opposition after seeing how the government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done in its first year in power.
“If we see the direction that the Trudeau government is taking the economy, it’s very, very troubling. With the recently announced carbon tax, what are they going to do in terms of manufacturing in Ontario? Michigan, Ohio and other states don’t have such a tax, so the government is moving very quickly and you see the economic mess already,” he says.
“(We went) from a billion-dollar surplus under our government to a $30-billion deficit. And do you see any jobs or any real activity from that? No. Taxes are going up at a time where wages are stagnant, so we need to reconnect with Canadians very quickly…and show a fresh perspective and a lot of the sound policies, particularly on the economy, they knew the Conservatives for for many years.”
First elected as the MP for Durham in a 2012 by-election to fill the seat left vacant by a retiring Bev Oda, O’Toole served as the Minister of Veterans Affairs under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as the party’s critic for public safety under interim leader Rona Ambrose.
O’Toole’s resume also includes time with the Royal Canadian Air Force and working as a lawyer after his military service concluded.
The MP says he harkened back to his days in the air force when making the decision to run for the party leadership.
“I’m an ex air force person, and before you launch a mission, there’s a lot of flight planning,” he says.
“And we’ve been doing a lot of planning, a lot of discussions with my colleagues, talking about it as a family, and we’ve launched the mission today.”
One person who did not see the leadership announcement coming was Erin’s father John O’Toole, who served as the provincial representative for the Durham riding from 1995 to 2014.
“I was surprised, to be honest. I’ve not been coaching him since I retired. I’ve been watching with great respect,” he says.
“I can foresee the challenges…the current government is not unpopular and there’s going to be a lot of hard work pulling the party together. I think they’re together now, but there’s several people in the leadership that will have challenging positions I’m sure. Part of a leader is bringing people together with a vision, and I believe that Erin has those qualities.”
To date, six candidates – Maxime Bernier, MP for Beauce, Quebec; Michael Chong, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills; Kellie Leitch, MP for Simcoe-Grey; Deepak Obhrai, MP for Calgary Forest Lawn; and Brad Trost, the former MP for Saskatoon-University – have filed their nomination papers for the leadership. Other candidates, such as former Ajax-Pickering MP Chris Alexander, former Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Pierre Lemieux and Dan Lindsay, the president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, have declared they will be running but have not yet filled their nomination papers.
The first leadership debate is currently scheduled for Nov. 9 in Saskatoon, followed by another debate in Greely, outside of Ottawa, on Nov. 13. The leadership election is slated for May 27, 2017.